Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eric Rudolph: Serial Bomber

Survival Mode

By Rachael Bell

Eric Rudolph
Eric Rudolph

As Rudolph began his new life behind bars, officers swarmed into the densely wooded region surrounding the Great Smokey Mountains looking for where the fugitive might have lived. When they scoured the expansive area it was hard for them to imagine how anyone could have survived five long winters in such an inhospitable wilderness. Then again, Rudolph had survivalist training and was at one time a soldier, better preparing him for nature's ruggedness than most.

While on the run, Rudolph lived on a diet of wild game and boar, bear, deer, acorns and lizards, most of which he hunted with a gun. Two campsites were found where he was believed to have lived, which contained stores of grains, corn and beans. Investigators surveying the area wondered if someone might have supplied Rudolph with some of the food they found at the sites. However, there was no evidence to support their suspicions. It was more likely that he stole the food from nearby cabins, which were often left unlocked, from farm grain silos or garbage containers located behind local restaurants and grocery stores.

Whitmore said in another article that one of the campsites was located "on a mountainside, in a thicket 700 vertical feet above the nearest Forest Service road" and covered by a "canopy of evergreen trees, rhododendron and mountain laurel that offered cover from searching helicopters." Surprisingly, the federal task force set up to find Rudolph was located several miles away and in between the second base camp, located approximately ten miles away from the first. Several dozen bags of evidence were taken from the sites, including nails that Rudolph hammered into trees. Investigators hoped that the material found at the sites could somehow be linked to him or his crimes, including the nails found hammered into trees that resembled those used in some of his bombs.

Rudolph campsite
Rudolph's campsite, courtesy

In the meantime, preparations were being made for Rudolph's trial to begin in Birmingham, Alabama after which he will be transferred to Atlanta to face another trial for crimes committed there. On June 3rd, he pled innocent to charges that he bombed the abortion clinic, which killed an off duty police officer and critically injured a nurse. Prosecutors in the case are seeking the death penalty, whereas the defense team has desperately tried to block the move, insisting instead on life imprisonment. As lawyers argued and wrangled, Rudolph remained locked in his cell under 24-hour surveillance at the Jefferson County Jail.

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